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Blue Flag

505th Combat Training Squadron emblem

505th Combat Training Squadron emblem

BLUE FLAG (BF) exercises create a realistic, operational level, Multi-Domain Command and Control (MDC2) decision environment utilizing high-fidelity constructive and virtual models in a simulated environment. This allows for the development of innovative and full spectrum challenges for the Commander Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR), Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC), and staff to exercise doctrinal processes in the planning, execution, and conducting joint coordination at the theater level, while simultaneously reducing the seams between operational, strategic and tactical levels of war. Participants are given maximum flexibility in managing friendly forces' employment, thus allowing player actions to influence the battle outcome. This holistic training approach develops innovative joint Airmen for air component commanders, the air operations center (AOC), and Air Force Forces (AFFOR) staff, preparing them for the Unified Combatant Command (UCC) assigned missions and joint actions with space, land, and maritime component partners. BF is one of the most advanced training programs administered by Air Combat Command (ACC) and the United States Air Force Warfare Center (USAFWC) through the 505th Combat Training Squadron (CTS).


The 505 CTS is ACC’s agent for planning and executing BLUE FLAG. The exercise provides real-time feedback on developed crisis action planning (CAP), and command and control (C2) developed products and plans utilizing constructive "fly out" of multi-domain air, ground, cyber, and space models. The exercise is further tailorable to provide replicative level training for National Guard and Reserve Air Operations Groups (AOGs) and associated units via the BLUE FLAG 2.0 concept.

HISTORY

The BLUE FLAG exercise program first executed from 7-10 December 1976 during BF 77-1 at Shaw Air Force Base (AFB), South Carolina, to train tactical combat leaders and to support battle staff personnel. The program evolved from a live-fly exercise to a command post exercise beginning with BF 79-3 held from 1-12 June 1979. The exercise program became computer-driven as technology evolved, incorporating theater-specific contingency plans. Over the last few years, the BF exercise program was retooled changing the methodology from an exercise focused on providing Numbered Air Force Commander's and their associated staffs and AOCs with operational-level air component experience in a realistic environment to a tailored event focusing on a range of exercise objectives relevant to the exercised commander. This new paradigm reinvigorates the BF exercise program, where it can focus on emerging requirements. The 505 CTS executed the first two iterations of BF 2.0 in October and November 2018, focusing on reserve component spin-up training while also executing a large-scale BF exercise for the 9th and 12th Air Forces from 6-10 May 2019. 

EXECUTION

The primary training audience includes commanders and staff of Component-Numbered Air Forces (C-NAF), Air Force Forces (AFFOR), Joint/Combined Air Operations Commander (J/CAOC), and associated operational-level joint and coalition C2 organizations and personnel. The objective is to provide a premier operational-level training environment to build Missions Essential Task List (METL) focused readiness and support senior leadership development, enabling the critical decisions and actions in the first hours of a crisis.  The goal is for two BLUE FLAG Numbered Air Force (NAF) events a year, but the 505 CTS supports Air and Space Operations Center/AFFOR training embedded into multi-tiered combatant command-sponsored events through the Joint Air Component C2 Exercise, Training, and Integration (JETI) program.

The exercise development and execution utilize five main lines of effort; planning, scenario development, models & simulation tools, exercise control group, and AFFOR/professional control force replication.

Planning – Experts in planning and integrating multiple organizations to replicate strategic, operational, and tactical level capabilities during a typical 18 month joint exercise life cycle. Preparation is key to tying together various Department of Defense (DoD) and coalition units and component systems and personnel to present a realistic and detailed exercise.

Scenario Development - Scenario development is conducted by a cross-functional team that occurs throughout the BLUE FLAG planning cycle to develop a robust theater-level scenario. This team is supported by a Higher Headquarters Element (HICON) and Intel section, to accurately replicate theater conditions, friendly and enemy force postures, logistics capabilities, and the Geographic Combatant Commander (GCC) or Joint Task Force (JTF) staff and/or other strategic level functions and organizations. Scenario development easily accommodates special operations forces, space and cyber factors, and land and maritime training requirements.

Models & Simulations (M&S) - Various M&S tools, when combined, provide a realistic representation of air, space, and cyber power to create realistic, full-spectrum challenges for the participants. These include the ability for 5th generation aircraft replication, hypersonic weapons, Joint Information Operation Range (JIOR) access, and Special Technical Operation training inputs.

Exercise Control Group – Several unique capabilities enable tactical to theater-level and above replication, allowing maximum audience interactions and a dynamic campaign and Air Tasking Order (ATO) results. This group includes replicated GCC/JTF guidance and interaction, including retired General Officer and Ambassador level interactions, real-time training inject management, and scenario execution, and "fly out" oversight. 

Force Replication – The force replication cell is led by the world-famous professional control force (PCF), who replicates operational and tactical level capabilities, and execution of tactics, techniques, & procedures (TTP) while flying tasked ATOs, executing cyber or space orders, and replicating external coalition or joint air component players. The AFFOR replication cell conducts all theater AFFOR coordination required, ranging from Wing Operations Center (WOC) coordination to requesting additional forces into the theater. The non-kinetics cell (NKE) provides replication of electronic warfare, space, and cyber and other effects needed to execute multi-domain operations. Overarching intel and targeting support to develop robust databases and adversary force capabilities and expected execution ensures a viable, thinking adversary to provide complex and full-spectrum problems to challenge the participants.

BLUE FLAG provides invaluable combat environment training for Commander Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR), Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC), and staff to achieve competency in making operational decisions in a high stress, fast-paced, joint domain environment while facing an innovative, full-spectrum adversary. BLUE FLAG allows the "First Ten Missions" at the operational level, enabling a true 'Fight Tonight' warfighting capability for the CFACC and staff.

505TH COMMAND AND CONTROL WING (CCW) PUBLIC AFFAIRS

For more information about the BLUE FLAG exercise program, contact the 505 CCW Public Affairs Office at 850-884-9476 or debora.henley@us.af.mil.

(Current as of June 2020)